European elections: how do they work?

This spring, voters in Europe will be invited to vote in the European Parliament elections. But, with there being so much complexity around the elections, it can cause some confusion among voters.

Here’s a brief guide the European elections:

How do the elections work?

In May, EU citizens will choose 705 MEP’s to serve for five years in the European Parliament. There are various voting systems used in the EU, which all follow a type of proportional representation system.

These include:


  • Open lists: Voters are able to choose their favourite party and candidate. They are also able to influence who is elected first by changing the order of the party lists.
  • Closed lists: Voters choose their preferred party, then the number of MEPs elected is proportional to the vote share. The MEP candidates at the top of the list are elected first.
  • Single transferable vote: Voters number the candidates in order of preference. Them, the numbers are used to transfer the vote of a candidate that has passed the threshold and has no chance of being elected. When a candidate gets enough votes, the second preferences are counted, and this system. continues through the other preferences.


When does the vote take place?

As with the voting systems, the actual dates for the voting differs between member states. For the majority of countries, it will be May 26th. For others it will be either 23rd, 24th, or 25th.

What is the role of an MEP?

MEP’s are elected to represent a constituency or country in the European Parliament for a five year term. The number of MEPs elected to represent each country is proportional to the country’s population.

Although they continue to represent their country, in parliament, MEPs sit according to the ideology of their political party, for example: centre-right, socialists, greens and euro sceptics.

Once elected, MEPs work alongside the European Council to approve EU laws and budgets. They also help to choose who is elected as the president of the European Commission.

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